The Polynesian Cultural Center is promoting new hands-on guest activities such as drumming. // © 2012 Polynesian Cultural Center
Playful. Adventurous. Energizing. These are some of the words that Oahu Visitors Bureau’s director of travel industry sales Stacey Martin Alford used as she spoke about Oahu’s tourism scene for 2012.
“This year, we’re capitalizing on trends in specific market segments including leisure groups, wellness travelers and active couples,” said Alford. “All of these markets are drawn to Oahu’s energized and adventurous personality.”
Last year’s biggest news on Oahu was the opening of Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Ko Olina, and the island’s depth of value and options will continue to make it a top family destination in 2012, said Alford.
“However, whether travelers are young, old, single, married or traveling with friends or family, Oahu’s personality brings out the playfulness in our visitors,” she said. “The spirit here is exceptionally fun. Oahu attracts people who want to get away from their problems and recharge themselves in a warm, friendly environment.”
New Activities and Attractions
Agents selling Oahu in 2012 have plenty of destination news to share with their clients, including lively programs and upgrades at Oahu’s attractions.
By summer, for instance, the Polynesian Cultural Center’s (PCC) redesigned Hukilau Theater will feature new digital projectors and compelling interactive elements. The North Shore mecca will continue to add hands-on activities for guests, and it just launched a significant upgrade to its agent booking system, PCC Agent.
In March 2012, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, which recently merged with the Contemporary Museum, will change its name to Honolulu Museum of Art, and the first two of 10 galleries will be reinstalled through the fall. Two major 2012 exhibits will showcase the work of island artists.
With the new Passport to Pearl Harbor, 2012 visitors can return to Pearl Harbor within seven days of their initial visit at no additional charge, allowing two-day access to its historic sites such as WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Battleship Missouri Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park and Pacific Aviation Museum.
Meanwhile, Honolulu Zoo is launching twilight tours on Friday and Saturday evenings. All ages can join the two-hour guided tour of the grounds.
Investing in the Infrastructure
Ongoing investments in Oahu’s visitor plant are making it more appealing than ever for 2012. Projects finished in recent months include Hilton Hawaiian Village’s $45 million Rainbow Tower makeover, DoubleTree by Hilton Alana Waikiki’s $16 million transformation and JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa’s $18 million upgrade.
From March 1 to June 30, Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach is sprucing up all of its guestrooms as well as its hotel driveway entry and beachfront swimming pool. Clients who visit during the renovation period can book rooms at reduced rates.
For a new Waikiki hotel experience, agents can suggest Hyatt Place Waikiki, open since December. Combining what it calls “stylish design and practical amenities with forward-thinking technology and purposeful service,” it’s the largest Hyatt Place in the country, with 426 rooms.
New Hawaiian activities and music are enlivening Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa this year. In E Makani Eha (Four Winds), a newly refurbished corner of the Diamond Head Tower, the ambassadors of aloha, April and Aka, share weekly interactive pastimes focusing on local culture.
Oahu’s Food Front
Oahu’s culinary scene is stirring some fun into the 2012 visitor experience. For starters, Hawaii Food Tours has reintroduced its Gourmet Trilogy, a progressive dinner taking clients to three outstanding Honolulu restaurants in one evening.
A new event called For the Love of Wine debuts at Kahala Hotel and Resort on Feb. 11. Clients can sample varietals from eight wineries paired with a seafood buffet, served around the pool and across oceanfront lawns.
Aston Waikiki Joy Hotel is opening Kimukatsu, a high-profile Japanese tonkatsu restaurant, in February. At Aston Waikiki Circle, the popular Eggs ‘n Things has debuted a second location called Waikiki Beach Eggspress. And, Hawaii Regional Cuisine wizard Peter Merriman is opening an outpost of his popular restaurant, Monkeypod Kitchen, at Ko Olina Resort this summer.
As travel agents work to boost their Oahu bookings for 2012, Alford recommends that they keep abreast not only of the island’s fun new offerings but of each client’s interests.
“Consumers continue to hold their vacation destinations accountable for heightened value and authentic experiences, and Oahu is no exception,” said Alford. “Travel agents are well-positioned to help them break through the Internet clutter by aligning their intimate knowledge of their client’s passions with the depth of their expertise.”